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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bring fair into 21st century

Posted Friday, July 24, 2009, at 1:59 PM

We're not surprised that the people who put together the fair this year believe it went well. Usually, they're not going to come out and say they did a poor job.

And in fact, the organizers and participants worked hard to do the best they could.

But let's face it. There are some problems there, which may or may not be within the capabilities of the people who currently run the fair to fix.

Essentially, it's dull by the standards of the modern day, and if you aren't a participant, the carnival is about the only reason to go. And that's not enough to make the fair what it should be. For far too many people, it's become the "five-minute fair" -- the time it takes to see everything they actually want to see or do before they head off to the carnival.

Originally, fairs were designed as a celebration of the harvest, a chance to show off the accomplishments and skills of rural lifestyles. That's why you have sections for the largest sugar beet, potato or ear of corn. It's why there are contests for the best pie or cake, and ribbons are handed out for the best quilts, sewing skills and crafts. It's why animals are put on display, to show the skill of the farmer or rancher who raised them. Those skills are still valid, and those honored with blue ribbons or grand champion awards should continue to feel proud of their accomplishments.

But 104 years ago, when the first Elmore County Fair was held, this was a rural area in which the vast majority of citizens were either involved in agricultural tasks, or worked for businesses that supported them.

Today, only a small percentage of the population still works the land to put food on our table. The rural lifestyle that the traditional fair celebrated is now rare, not the norm -- at least not in Elmore County. And as a result, its relevance to the general population is fading.

Look at the Western Idaho Fair in Boise, the state's largest. The animal barns and produce exhibits are not what draws people to that event. It's the carnival rides and food booths, the many concerts and the merchant buildings with their give-aways and drawings.

The Elmore County Fair still operates like a Norman Rockwell painting, a frozen moment in a time gone by.

To make the fair a major event again, a major draw for everyone in the county, it is time for the fair board to begin to re-evaluate what it is that will draw people for a celebration of what the county is today, to make it relevant again. That doesn't mean abandoning the traditional elements of the fair. If nothing else, they should be maintained as a connection to the past and an exhibition of those who still toil the land. But it is time to expand what the fair offers, time to open it up so that it becomes an event that also celebrates the lifestyles and accomplishments of the more urban 21st century, not just the rural 19th.

It's time to break away from doing it the same way it's been done for 104 years, and for the fair board to shake loose the cobwebs of inertia and embrace a new, more dynamic vision, one that will make the fair relevant again, and something no one wants to miss.

-- Kelly Everitt


Comments
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Kelly,

I agree with your overall assessment of the fair, it does need to become more of a 21st century event. However, I do not agree with your statement: "Today, only a small percentage of the population still works the land to put food on our table. The rural lifestyle that the traditional fair celebrated is now rare, not the norm -- at least not in Elmore County. And as a result, its relevance to the general population is fading."

"According to the 2008 Idaho Agricultural Statistics, there are 364 farms in Elmore County producing agricultural commodities. Of these farms, 94% are irrigated and 6% are dry land farms. The irrigated farms have an average size of 478 acres, while the dry land farms average 1378 acres. The total acreage in farmland in 355,590, with an average farm size of 1,181 acres. Based on agricultural data collected by the State of Idaho, the market value of farm products sold by Elmore County farmers was $220,121,000 in 2006. Nearly 20% of Idaho agriculture is exported to foreign markets. Idaho reached a new record in FY2007 of $1.2 billion, up 25% from FY2006." Copied from: http://www.extension.uidaho.edu/elmore/N...

"Approximately 22% of Elmore County's lands are designated farm lands." This was copied from: http://www.elmorecounty.org/history.htm. 70% of the county is federally owned. I was not able to find the number of actual agriculture related jobs within Elmore County but I personally would not characterize this portion of the population as "...only a small percentage...". I would find more relevance in good hard numbers rather than a generalization.

Have you attended the rodeo that is held on Friday and Saturday nights? The place is packed, even in the 100+ degree weather. There is still a tremendous interest in the history and heritage of this county, the farmers and cowboys should continue to be a major focus of the fair.

-- Posted by jtrotter on Fri, Jul 24, 2009, at 9:27 PM

Yes, it has faded because subdivisions now sit where farms used to be and you support the nuclear power plant which will take prime farm land and turn it into an industrial wasteland as well as everything around it. Funny blog. It would almost seem as if you cared about the rural quality of life and the farmers. Funny stuff! Did anyone stop to think that maybe the fair was not as "good" as it could have been because of the economy? People are not spending like they did a year ago. Crafters do not want to travel several hundred miles to come to a fair and sell little to nothing. That is the reality of the situation. Could the people who ran the fair have done a better job? Maybe---or maybe not. You cannot make people spend when they do not have the money. I am sure that had a HUGE impact on this situation. At least a group of people tried to put on a good event which is more than I can say for the WECRD and their crew. 10 years of nothing vs. a fair that has had many good years but clealry felt the economic times this year. Many need to be happy someone agreed to run the fair at all. I am sure they will think twice before they offer to help next year and who could blame them?

-- Posted by OpinionMissy on Mon, Jul 27, 2009, at 12:23 PM

What has always drawn me to a fair is the exhibits the farm animals and the food. The carnival rides don't do it for me anymore other then making me sick. lol ! I also like looking at the crafts people enter to win a ribbon. Some people are very creative !

-- Posted by MsMarylin on Mon, Jul 27, 2009, at 4:31 PM

Just had to go completely off topic to get your jab in, didncha?

-- Posted by MrMister on Mon, Jul 27, 2009, at 7:42 PM

Just had to go completely off topic to get your jab in, didncha?

-- Posted by MrMister on Mon, Jul 27, 2009, at 7:42 PM

Learned from the Master Mr. or Mr. Master:) You have a very nice day.

-- Posted by OpinionMissy on Tue, Jul 28, 2009, at 2:00 PM

The Fair does have problems, and there are lots of reasons. Yes, the economy for one. Lack of (I've said it before) parental involvement with the projects. However, I'm involved, and have been for 20 years, in the "4-H Horse Project" and there was actually an increase in participation in this! That excites me! I watched the Pig show and loved seeing the kids have a good time. I don't have children in the age of 4-H any more, but still love to be involved. BE involved if you can, and encourage others to be involved. It can get better.

As far as the administration of the County Fair.....hmmmmmmmmmmmmm..... maybe a bit of open mindedness of what we that have BEEN here all these years think and advise might help. Just a thought. I saw a lot of "I know what's best" attitude going on.....

Jessie

-- Posted by jessiemiller on Sun, Aug 2, 2009, at 10:04 PM


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